Saint Jonah, Metropolitan of Moscow and Wonderworker of All Russia, was born in the city of Galich into a pious Christian family. The father of the future saint was named Theodore. The youth received monastic tonsure in one of the Galich monasteries when he was only twelve years old. From there, he transferred to the Moscow Simonov monastery, where he fulfilled various obediences for many years.
Once, Saint Photius, Metropolitan of Moscow (May 27 and July 2), visited the Simonov monastery. After the Molieben, he blessed the archimandrite and brethren, and also wished to bless those monks who were fulfilling their obediences in the monastery.
When he came to the bakery, he saw Saint Jonah sleeping, exhausted from his work. The fingers of the saint’s right hand were positioned in a gesture of blessing. Saint Photius said not to wake him. He blessed the sleeping monk and predicted to those present that this monk would be a great hierarch of the Russian Church, and would guide many on the way to salvation.
The prediction of Saint Photius was fulfilled. Several years later, Saint Jonah was made Bishop of Ryazan and Murom.
Saint Photius died in 1431. Five years after his death, Saint Jonah was chosen Metropolitan of All Russia for his virtuous and holy life. The newly-elected Metropolitan journeyed to Constantinople in order to be confirmed as Metropolitan by Patriarch Joseph II (1416-1439). Shortly before this the nefarious Isidore, a Bulgarian, had already been established as Metropolitan. Spending a short time at Kiev and Moscow, Isidore journeyed to the Council of Florence (1438), where he embraced Catholicism.
A Council of Russian hierarchs and clergy deposed Metropolitan Isidore, and he was compelled to flee secretly to Rome (where he died in 1462). Saint Jonah was unanimously chosen Metropolitan of All Russia. He was consecrated by Russian hierarchs in Moscow, with the blessing of Patriarch Gregory III (1445-1450) of Constantinople. This was the first time that Russian bishops consecrated their own Metropolitan. Saint Jonah became Metropolitan on December 15, 1448. With archpastoral zeal he led his flock to virtue and piety, spreading the Orthodox Faith by word and by deed. Despite his lofty position, he continued with his monastic struggles as before.
In 1451 the Tatars unexpectedly advanced on Moscow; they burned the surrounding area and prepared for an assault on the city. Metropolitan Jonah led a procession along the walls of the city, tearfully entreating God to save the city and the people. Seeing the dying monk Anthony of the Chudov monastery, who was noted for his virtuous life, Saint Jonah said, “My son and brother Anthony! Pray to the Merciful God and the All-Pure Mother of God for the deliverance of the city and for all Orthodox Christians.”
The humble Anthony replied, “Great hierarch! We give thanks to God and to His All-Pure Mother. She has heard your prayer and has prayed to Her Son. The city and all Orthodox Christians will be saved through your prayers. The enemy will soon take flight. The Lord has ordained that I alone am to be killed by the enemy.” Just as the Elder said this, an enemy arrow struck him.
The prediction of Elder Anthony was made on July 2, on the Feast of the Placing of the Robe of the Most Holy Theotokos. Confusion broke out among the Tatars, and they fled in fear and terror. In his courtyard, Saint Jonah built a church in honor of the Placing of the Robe of the Most Holy Theotokos, to commemorate the deliverance of Moscow from the enemy.
Saint Jonah reposed in the year 1461, and miraculous healings began to take place at his grave.
In 1472 the incorrupt relics of Metropolitan Jonah were uncovered and placed in the Dormition Cathedral of the Kremlin (the Transfer of the holy Relics is celebrated May 27). A Council of the Russian Church in 1547 established the commemoration of Saint Jonah, Metropolitan of Moscow. In 1596, Patriarch Job added Saint Jonah to the Synaxis of the Moscow Hierarchs (October 5).
Saint Jonah, Metropolitan of Moscow is also commemorated on March 31.